I remember a time before social media. However, my childhood was not the carefree kind, the ones you hear longingly described, when gangs of gangly children roamed the streets and came home when the street lights came on.
My mom came to America in the late 1980s with a cute toddler version of me.
She firmly believed in two things. First, that a mysterious “they” was stealing children from these dimly lit streets, and second, that Americans as a whole were just scary.
At the time, my mother was afraid of what she did not know, but she could not prevent my entry into a culture that made her uncomfortable because I was surrounded by it.
Then came another foreign place: the Internet – another place that she had no experience of.
A CNN article suggested that millennials find it difficult to identify with their children and the pressures of social media on their identity and self-esteem.
It sounds like a wild claim when we, as whole adults, suffer from the same constructs that we watch our children being drawn into and have worked under those same pressures for decades now.
I have seen the Internet grow around me. This has caused tendrils in my real relationships; that’s where I met my husband. It helped me build parts of my identity; that’s where I started to write.
It also struck a chord with my self-esteem, especially when my cooking could certainly be more Pinterest-inspired and my body could be a lot more toned or plumped, depending on the social mandates of the moment.
There weren’t any real nannies on the internet when I started online, and while clicking I started asking questions with unfiltered answers. I asked about religion. I asked about sex. I asked about the violence, and when slowly loaded images could show the worst of humanity, they came with more questions and concerns.
There wasn’t a lot of teaching my parents could do to guide me, because it was brand new, but a stray line from my father stuck with me. At first, when we explored what the computer could do and tried out cats, he marveled that you could be anyone behind the screen.
“And the other person too,” he thought.
For a while I had a friend in Sweden who shared music with me. I joined a Christian chat room that never talked about religion, but always had people to keep you company. I befriended other bloggers through writing challenges.
All of these people probably existed in one form or another, and I could expand who I was to try out different identities that I could become my own in.
There was a change when my friends started connecting. First it was new to chatting on the computer, then it got more complicated with profiling on Myspace. The internet began to take on a new dimension that I was not particularly comfortable with – that my real identity could be linked to my online characters.
Additionally, I began to deal with the social fallout of the real world when others could see who I had chosen to post as a friend on a website. It was weird. More of my friends joined me when we locked ourselves in and started to cherish our privacy. (We then marveled when our parents slowly started to open up more online than we did.)
When my children go online, it will be my behavior that will be part of their guide. They’re already carefully monitoring how I interact with friends, but I’ll have to teach the same critical thinking that we use for other, more complex interactions.
And, I’m going to have reminders that, yes, the person you see in this video might look very beautiful, but aren’t there some filters for you to change your eye color, the softness of your eyes? your skin, the angles of your chin? If it’s something that is accessible to them, wouldn’t it be accessible to others as well?
As millennials and other generations who watch the youngest in our society struggle with the internet and social media, we must first be honest with ourselves and our children about the dangers in the world, which now include the internet as a presence. daily. .
We teach them the rules for crossing the street, but some of these streets will now be virtual, and we walk them together.
– Cassie McClure is a writer, wife / mom / daughter, Oxford comma fan, and tequila drinker. Some of these things are related. She is also the Executive Director of the National Society of Newspaper Columnists and can be contacted at [email protected], or follow her on Twitter: @TheCMcClure. Click here to read the previous columns. The opinions expressed are his own.